If I were to rely solely on the comments sections of comic book industry news sites I’d be led to believe that Superior Spider-Man is the worst thing to happen to Marvel – ever. In truth, it’s one of the best titles the company currently has, which is saying quite a bit, because Marvel’s certainly been hitting it out of the park in terms of storytelling and character development.
I like Peter Parker. When I was a wee lad I’d consume anything that featured “Spider-Man” in the title. I wanted to be Spidey and I related to Peter. That said, one thing I like more than Peter Parker is when comic book publishers take risks with legacy characters in the name of telling an ambitious and well-written story. For all the complaining fanboys do about the state of the industry it’s always puzzling to me that they complain just as much when companies try to do exciting things. Sacred cows are boring if all they do is stand in a field all day.
What Superior Spider-Man does well is play with emotions. It’s sad to know that Peter’s not simply dead, but that his body has been inhabited by one of his greatest enemies, Doctor Octopus. It’s torture to see a flicker of the hero still frustrated and screaming in the background of his body’s consciousness.
It’s creepy to know it’s Otto Octavius flirting with Mary Jane. It’s even creepier on a whole other level to know he’s pining inside for the woman he once almost married, Peter’s Aunt May.
It’s frustrating to finally see J. Jonah Jameson approve of the actions of the wall crawler, but only because Otto is sullying Spidey’s name by crossing the hard ethical lines set by Peter.
It’s humiliating to watch Doc Ock mock Peter, one of the smarter people on Earth-616, for not completing his doctorate and actually pledge to do what Peter could not by finishing school. To add to that humiliation Doc builds dozens of spider cameras to monitor the city, so he can more effectively fight crime while also finishing his degree.
The storyline Dan Slott is writing for Spider-Man is providing the character of Peter Parker the opportunity to take a vacation. It is, essentially, a way to eventually relaunch a fresh Peter Parker as the spectacular Spider-Man without the need to relaunch the entire Marvel Universe. At this point it appears when Parker comes back Spider-Man’s reputation will have been reset to where the public is wary of the wall crawler. It’ll be like the good old days when J. Jonah Jameson was a one man propaganda machine vilifying Spidey no matter how much good he did. Assuming the world doesn’t learn that Spider-Man was occupied by Doc Ock there’s going to be a serious need for Parker to rebuild not only his brand, but relationships.
Of course, I was one of those in the minority who felt DC and Grant Morrison were too quick to bring back Bruce Wayne as Batman. Dick Grayson trying to live up to the legend, and cope with a scowling Damian Wayne, was far more interesting than yet another Bruce Wayne as Batman vs. “fill-in-the-blank” from his rogues gallery story. Due to the necessity to bring back Bruce Wayne we never had the opportunity to learn, for example, how would Dick Grayson as Batman handle the Riddler while carrying on the charade that it’s the same Batman?
I know how Peter Parker as Spider-Man will handle villains like Electro or Chameleon. I’ve read versions of those stories for years. I don’t know how Otto Octavius as Spider-Man will handle those villains, especially without letting on too much that he isn’t the same person inside the Peter Parker flesh suit.
Dan Slott has received a great deal of venom for his decision to “kill” Peter Parker, but the angry comments from the “don’t change the status quo” crowd are mere whispers when held up against the numbers. Superior is a success, because Slott, with the blessing of his editors, decided to have faith that readers wanted to read new stories and not just remixes of the old.